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13 December 2013, Extra Local, article by Tom Bingham
Mystery On New Year's Eve, 1942
Arthur Clifford Sumpter & Betty Gallay


LOCAL VIEW: Local history-loving - well-known for his connection to the arts and for his hand-made guitars - has been digging round in the Northamptonshire archives and has found a wartime story that remains to this day a mysterious tale of love, intrigue, jealousy and murder.


Was Rushden's 'crime of passion' a love triangle?

OVER the Christmas period of 1942, when blackouts kept us hidden from German bombers, tragic and mysterious events were taking place in Rushden - described by a local vicar as being "a godless town, taken too much to drinking"!

(Could you blame them, under those war-weary circumstances?)

A well-respected member of the community, Arthur Clifford Sumpter, had inherited £30,000 from a collier owner he befriended while recuperating in a hospital on Tyneside -Mr Henry Embleton's bequest made Sumpter (44) a wealthy man. In due course, Sumpter took his live-in housekeeper, Betty Barratt (24), as his lover for two and a half years and lived happily at The Gables in Rushden.

Sumpter's brother-in-law, Fred Tyman, worked at tending, the house and grounds of The Gables, which was bought with Sumpter's windfall. Betty Gallay confided in Tyman that she was seeing a soldier and was fearful of Sumpter's reaction on being told she wanted to leave him to marry the soldier.

On Thursday December 31, employed about his daily chores, making the tea etc, Tyman left the morning tray outside the bedroom door, knocking with a wake-up call. Returning later in the morning, he found the tray untouched, pushed open the door and to his horror found Gallay lying on her back, mouth open, with four bullet holes in her body. Sumpter lay beside her (also on his back) with a shoulder and head wound. He was still breathing, his head resting on her right shoulder, with a gun a few inches from his right hand. He died a few hours later in hospital. The gun used was a .38 Enfield service revolver that had been reloaded after four bullets had been fired; the shells lay on the floor. There was no sign of a break-in and part-full whiskey bottles, found in the room, seemed to indicate that Sumpter may well have been drunk from the previous night's drinking with Gallay at the White Horse public house till 10pm.

The blackout curtains were still drawn and the lights were on.

Did Sumpter shoot himself in the shoulder accidentally before shooting himself in the head?

Forensic evidence showed murder then suicide by Sumpter. The coroner called it a 'Crime of Passion', yet there are still unanswered questions; who was the soldier Gallay wanted to marry and how, or why, did Sumpter shoot himself in the arm? Was there a third party involved who knew Sumpter kept a gun in the wardrobe drawer, or was this a simply a series of tragic events driven by jealousy and alcohol?

Sumpter was something of a playboy, with two cars and membership to the golf and cricket club, he had a reputation for being generous. But he knew a soldier had visited the house during his absence and threw Gallay out to her mother's house in Higham Ferrers. Gallay returned a couple of days later and, on the night in question, things appeared to be back on track.

Betty Gallay was a tall, blonde, attractive and always smartly dressed woman, who was deemed by the coroner to have been the victim of a crime of passion. On January 5 they were both buried adjacent to each other in Rushden RC Church.

However, some questions still remain about that sordid night; did Sumpter shoot himself in the shoulder then the head? Who was the soldier who called to see Gallay and just who knew about the gun and 24 bullets in the wardrobe drawer?

Gallay's mother, who was looking after her daughter's four-year-old child by a previous relationship with a man called Gallay, claimed to have received a note from Sumpter saying he was so distraught at her leaving, he was "considering shooting Betty Gallay and himself". Yet, no note was produced in court. Why not?

Tyman would let himself into The Gables. Was he the only one with a key?

Or was this really just a drunken, jealous crime of passion?


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